Be very careful what you wish for. I prayed for a good old slogger, but somebody upstairs took me a little too literally. After Loenhout’s 1 in 1,000 high-speed ‘crosses (easily the fastest I’ve done), the pendulum swung way back to make Hooglede the 1 in 1,000 slow-speed ‘cross (easily the slowest I’ve done). Consider some stats. Even though the lap was long at 3.2k, we only raced 6 laps, with Nijs going over an hour. (Under normal conditions, we’d have done 8 or 9–still a long lap.) The other Sven was 14th at over 4:30min. down. I was 36th at 11:03 down. Retarded….There was so much running. I dismounted over 10 times per lap, probably running at least 4min. per lap, and on average each lap took me just less than 12min. (That’s right, I was almost 2min. per lap slower than the leaders.)
The difference between riding or running this ridiculous muck–a simultaneous mix of exceedingly slick and sticky mud and grass–was a lot of power. I like to consider myself a specialist in this type of shit, but it was too much for me. I just couldn’t get the traction I needed to move forward on the flat sections. Sure, the tire selection I had at my disposal was not choice, but I wasn’t the only guy in that boat. No excuses….At the end of lap 2, I separated myself from those close (which, interestingly, included most of the Americans, like Wicks, Baker, Gallagher, and Powers, plus a Slovak rider; at this point, Trebon had all ready crashed out, and Wicks was about to do the same; Page didn’t start due to injury), and I was then by myself.
I could kinda see some riders up ahead, but looking forward was made difficult due to the rain and mud splatter, the treacherous–even dangerous–course conditions, and the huge crowd. I was shocked and disappointed to hear that I was only in 38th place at this point. I figured I was in the top 30 for sure, having passed VanNoppen and some others. I guess my start was pathetic. Anyway, I shook it off and decided that I had 40min. to move up, the conditions perfect for just that. But I didn’t. I just couldn’t seem to get any momentum, just doing my own thing lap after lap. When alone, it’s hard to change your habits: you get into a rut, so to speak. Without other riders around, your lines and decisions are not challenged, so you lose the forward-thinking mentality. Normally, I’m all right when dealt this hand, always able to think in fast-forward. I just failed today. I only moved up 2 more spots, both due to abandons….
Even though I was the first U.S. rider and probably locked a spot on the team, I’m left far from satisfied. Athletes have to live at once in the moment and think and plan for the long-term. Today, I feel like I should have at least beat the 4 guys who were less than 1min. ahead, and I should have absolutely stayed within 8 or maybe 9 minutes down. Oh well….Baker and Gallagher finished on the lead lap, but since they were “on the second page” their real times were not recorded: they were given the same time as the Slovak who was behind me. I don’t think they were any more than 1min. off my pace. Powers just got doubled….’Twas a tough couple of days for the top U.S. ‘crossers. Page is out for 2 weeks due to an injury he sustained Thursday at Middlekerke, where he finished 3rd in a small C2 race. Trebon crashed on the first lap today, injuring his elbow and shoulder. Wicks crashed on the 3rd lap, dislocating his pinky finger.
I had a good one, too. On the third lap as I narrowly closed on a few guys, I got sideways at a mud-to-brick transition, t-boning a huge steel barricade at maybe 20mph, knocking it and spectators over. Yes, I damaged my bike and my body. Since it was so cold, my hand made it through the race but is now nicely sprained. Sweet!…As usual, Jeremy had a nice way with words to sum-up the day’s events: “I gotta start going to church again.”…Well, I gotta go. Another day I will tell of the false start, my first drug control piss, etc.
Tomorrow, I’m racing at the GP Sven Nijs in Baal. It’s a GVA and Cat.1. That’ll be my 5th race. Like the others, it’ll be on live TV, and it’ll be huge. There’s a small C2 in Luxembourg tomorrow as well, but that will not attract many (if any) of the big guns. Monday will mark the first comparatively small race we’ll do, and Wednesday will be similar. Both are C2’s, but they’ll be well-attended. Last year I was able to finish in the top 20 of both, so we’ll see….